Photo of the Week
West Africa
Photo Title


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    [post_date] => 2014-10-16 11:08:12
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    [post_content] => Late one night, our tent was preparing for bed when we received a visitor.  It was Daniel, one of the other Dragons students.  From outside our door, he asked,

"What does a black mamba look like?"

We all sat in our mosquito nets deathly still for a moment as the gravity of the question sunk in.  A giant, black, poisonous snake in our deserted campground was no small matter.  Megan was the first to break the silence:

"Why do you ask?"

"I think I may have just seen one in the bathroom," he responded.

"Well, it's big and black," said Megan.

"You should probably wake the professors if you think you saw one," I chimed in.

"Wait, what did you actually see, Daniel?" said Megan.

"I don't know guys.  All I know is I saw a huge black spider rolling up a bug."

Instantly, all tension left the room, and we laughed at his mistake.  "Daniel, you know a black mamba is a snake, right?"
    [post_title] => Black Mamba Strikes Again
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West Africa

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Black Mamba Strikes Again

Alexis Russell,West Africa

Description

Late one night, our tent was preparing for bed when we received a visitor.  It was Daniel, one of the other Dragons students.  From outside our door, he asked, “What does a black mamba look like?” We all sat in our mosquito nets deathly still for a moment as the gravity of the question sunk […]

Posted On

10/16/14

Author

Alexis Russell

Category

West Africa

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    [post_date] => 2014-10-16 11:07:11
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We left Nden late afternoon, so we were treated to the setting sun as we were treated to the setting sun as we continued on our way to Lampoul.  Moussa's bus is really very comfortable - exactly the kind of transport I like to take on my adventures - so I was able to curl myself up into a ball and look out the window at the rolling hills, dry grasslands, and scattered Baobabs tinged in an orange-pink glow.

By the time we'd finally reached Lampoul, it was already dark.  Moussa's van couldn't make it the last stretch because of the terrain, so they loaded us into the back of an open air truck.  It was so fun!  Riding through the bumpy terrain felt like a roller coaster.  The darkness, too, added intrigue.  You couldn't see anything, and every now and then, the guys riding the tailgate would duck, warning you within a split second that branches were about to appear and smack you in the face if you didn't react immediately.  We couldn't even see the landscape around us.  Where were we going?  What would it look like?

These questions were apparently not meant to be answered that night, and we didn't get a good look at our lodgings until morning.  Instead, the only bits of our campsite we could see were lit by candles strategically placed around the campsite.  It was really kind of romantic if you're into that sort of thing.  Definitely a good beginning to a very good weekend trip.

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West Africa

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To Lampoul We Go

Alexis Russell,West Africa

Description

We left Nden late afternoon, so we were treated to the setting sun as we were treated to the setting sun as we continued on our way to Lampoul.  Moussa’s bus is really very comfortable – exactly the kind of transport I like to take on my adventures – so I was able to curl […]

Posted On

10/16/14

Author

Alexis Russell

Category

West Africa

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    [post_content] => This picture was taken during our trip to Lompoul a few days ago. We deeply appreciated our time in the gorgeous desert camp and wanted to give the people at home a chance to see our faces again.

Loads of love to all our families
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Just another pyramid in the desert

Alice Zimmerli,Picture of the Week, West Africa

Description

This picture was taken during our trip to Lompoul a few days ago. We deeply appreciated our time in the gorgeous desert camp and wanted to give the people at home a chance to see our faces again. Loads of love to all our families

Posted On

10/15/14

Author

Alice Zimmerli

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    [post_date] => 2014-10-13 10:40:00
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    [post_content] => ‘I could never be a teacher’ Fatou says, ‘I laugh too much.’ It’s true, Fatou Baji (more commonly known as Fatbaji), laughs often. It’s a surprised laugh ; her eyebrows lift, lips curve into a smile and the chuckle shakes her fragile frame. She thinks she has gained weight since coming to Senegal for medical treatment. She says that her friends from the Gambia would not recognize her now. They would not know her as the same Fatou who could hold her own in soccer against the boys and fought her a girl once over her boyfriend and was famous two villages over. I never knew her as that Fatou.

The Fatou I know introduces me to her friends in the neighborhood by calling them her brothers and sisters. Often they are the misfits and lonersof the block : the neighbor blind in one eye, the boy with Down syndrome, the second wife with five children. She shakes her head as they tease her gently , repeating her name as a mantra ‘Oh Fatbaji, Fatbaji.’

The Fatou I know tries to explain the Wolof TV shows as I stumble through the French news for her. She calls me ‘a real African woman’ when complimenting me on my laundry scrubbing technique. She teaches me how to cook rice Senegalese style, to take it out just when you have enough burned bits to make a crunchy ceeb.

The Fatou I know also had a child with the boyfriend she fought for, the one who left for Spain as soon as he learned of the pregnancy. She hasn't seen her brothers in years, not since they left for Sudan. The Fatou I know talks casually of these things : her temporary blindness after using the medicine a marabout gave her, her extended illness that keeps her awake and popping what pills she has.

She can speak so flippantly, switching from soap operas to wondering whether her son has Ebola wherever he is. In the hospital as her friends sobbed over her blindness, she reassured them. It is God's will, it is in the hands of God she laughs. I can only admire from afar her unshakeable faith, but closely do I see her strength and kindness and beauty. To Fatbaji, the best teacher I've had in Senegal.
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West Africa

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Fatou

Claire Rivkin,West Africa

Description

‘I could never be a teacher’ Fatou says, ‘I laugh too much.’ It’s true, Fatou Baji (more commonly known as Fatbaji), laughs often. It’s a surprised laugh ; her eyebrows lift, lips curve into a smile and the chuckle shakes her fragile frame. She thinks she has gained weight since coming to Senegal for medical treatment. […]

Posted On

10/13/14

Author

Claire Rivkin

Category

West Africa

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    [post_date] => 2014-10-13 10:38:06
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    [post_content] => I hope that for as long as I live I never forget the smell of couscous cooking. That's the most unique aspect of my homestay family is that they make couscous. This is not the couscous made out of flour that we all know, but couscous made from millet. Everyday when I return home from the program house my host father is sitting on his chair leaned against the house with prayer rug close by shelling peanuts while my host mother is slaving away. It wasn't until spending a long weekend at my house for Tabaski that I finally pieced together for each step up the process. First the millet is bought, then washed and set out in the sun. Then taken to a shop nearby who grinds the millet into a flour. Then water is added and the flour becomes more clumped. Then Laloo, a brown powder that turns sticky when water is added. Then the mixture is put into a colorful cloth and steamed in a giant coal blackened pot over a fire made with large sticks that are stored in the garage. There are three or four rounds of couscous that go through that process, and afterwards all of it has to be declumped and sifted. After the sifting, more Laloo and water is added then it is steamed again. Once removed from the pot it is declumped again, then put in a huge bowl to sell. It is a crazy process to watch! I could never imagine following each step, multiple times everyday of my life. But my host mother is her happiest when she is bent over the fire clutching her brightly colored skirt and repeating some phrase or another.

Just a few days ago, I was trusted not only to help make couscous, but sell it. I sit on the tiny bench and wait for the squeak of the front door and shuffle of sandals and the phrase "Amna chere?" (do you have couscous?) Each visitor does a double take or sometimes even asks again. But my host father nods and points to me. A toubab selling couscous? But they wander over and after Wolof greetings say how much they want. Although I usually understand what they want, my host father holds up the number of fingers they wants and points to the large or small scoop. I dole it out, bag it, and tie a slip know then recieve the money in my right hand.

Its fulfilling to be able to competenetly manage actuons that the women in my house have been perfecting for years. If I remember only one phrase in Wolof it will be the sound of my host mother chanting "Siga mena chere, Siga mena chere" ( Nathalie/Siga makes couscous)
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West Africa

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October 13, 2014

Nathalie Ingersoll,West Africa

Description

I hope that for as long as I live I never forget the smell of couscous cooking. That’s the most unique aspect of my homestay family is that they make couscous. This is not the couscous made out of flour that we all know, but couscous made from millet. Everyday when I return home from […]

Posted On

10/13/14

Author

Nathalie Ingersoll

Category

West Africa

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    [post_date] => 2014-10-08 12:16:28
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    [post_content] => 

It seems like every week brings along a new first. Week one, I did my laundry by hand for the first time -- badly, according to my host sister. A few weeks ago, I swallowed a pill for the first time. Before that, I just let my malaria pill sit in my mouth for thirty minutes as it dissolved, which wouldn't have been an awful solution if the taste didn't leave me in tears every time. The week after that, I heard my national anthem sung in Wolof for the first time while dancing around a fire with thirty-some Senegalese men, women, and children in a remote, beach-side, ultra-pious Sufi village. Last week, I had my conversation in 100% Wolof with a genuinely impressed boutique owner about the minutia of Senegalese tea making.

Yesterday's first, however left an image in my head that may never fade. It was what I've dubbed in my head as the Senegalese equivalent of Thanksgiving. From the endless preparation to the constant flow of guests to the loads of food and the week's worth of leftovers that follows, the two holidays really only differ in the fact that instead of giving thanks, you ask for forgiveness. Yesterday, I followed a sheep, whom I named Manny the Sheep, from the last night of its life to my Tabaski plate. As ready as I thought I was for Little Manny to bite the dust and bleed out into the foot-deep whole my twelve-year-old host brother proudly dug up in our back yard, you can never really prepare yourself for the way he's propped up against the chopping block with his hind legs contorted and restrained behind his back. I thought there would be some build up, too -- a prayer or song of some sort in Little Manny's honor--but the deed was done with the same amount of trepidation as one exerts when chopping an onion, which I've done a surprisingly large amount of in the past few weeks. Still, the sight of Little Manny's blood spewing out of his severed throat didn't even compare to that of his breakfast, lunch, and dinner rushing out as he was hung upside down, or with the crackling sound of Little Manny's thin white coat being stripped off his body. Seeing it all unfold at an eerily slow Senegalese pace was disturbing (I haven't even mentioned what was done with poor Little Manny's manhood!), but I watched it all. I could have walked away at any moment. Half the family wasn't even there, and save for my twelve-year-old host brother no one really seemed to enjoy the process, though objectively, it was probably done in the most humane way possible. But I needed to see it, because the whole time I was waiting for the sheep to stop looking like Little Manny and to start looking like lunch, because the bittersweet truth is, lunch -- Little Manny -- was delicious. [post_title] => One Month In! a.k.a. R.I.P. Manny [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => flag-one-month-k-r-p-manny [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-10-08 12:16:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-10-08 18:16:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://wheretherebedragons.com/?p=110890 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 132 [name] => West Africa [slug] => west-africa [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 132 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 239 [count] => 75 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7.1 [cat_ID] => 132 [category_count] => 75 [category_description] => [cat_name] => West Africa [category_nicename] => west-africa [category_parent] => 239 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/fall-2014/west-africa/ ) ) [category_links] => West Africa )

West Africa

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One Month In! a.k.a. R.I.P. Manny

Daniel Buchman,West Africa

Description

It seems like every week brings along a new first. Week one, I did my laundry by hand for the first time — badly, according to my host sister. A few weeks ago, I swallowed a pill for the first time. Before that, I just let my malaria pill sit in my mouth for thirty […]

Posted On

10/8/14

Author

Daniel Buchman

Category

West Africa

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    [post_content] => Time in Senegal is as slow as dripping honey.  It's slow in the way french people inhale on their cigarette, lingering.  It's so measured, and hot, that I don't feel like I breathe normally - I sip the thick air in a prolonged breath, holding it in, drinking it slowly.  We recently returned from two days spent in a tiny Sufi village, essentially a Koranic school, placed within sandy dunes at the edge of a pine forest on the sea.  It was beautiful, and slow.  There is no time there.  It seems that the hours, according to Sufi thought, all meld into one, the Divine, the Great Life.  Punctuated only by the times in which the community members all dress in white and come together in an unfinished concrete open air room to read the Koran, and to sing, rocking back and forth - until they reach some trance like state and are moved to dance.  This is mostly in the evening and night.  It was fun to watch our students, slowly slowly, surrender to the rhythm of the village, Dene, which derives from the Arabic word for religion.  By the second day that had stopped asking, 'What's next?  When is...?"  And they were all slinked against the wall of a hut saying, 'we like Senegal time.'  Moments like that make my heart sing.  They are opening themselves.  So am I.
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Slow as Honey

Rebecca Thom,West Africa

Description

Time in Senegal is as slow as dripping honey.  It’s slow in the way french people inhale on their cigarette, lingering.  It’s so measured, and hot, that I don’t feel like I breathe normally – I sip the thick air in a prolonged breath, holding it in, drinking it slowly.  We recently returned from two days […]

Posted On

10/8/14

Author

Rebecca Thom

Category

West Africa

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    [post_date] => 2014-10-07 11:42:30
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    [post_content] => The following is one of my journal entries from October 5th 2014, or Tabaski.

Before I begin with the festivities, I feel the need to point out that it has been exactly one month since I started this journal, marking the start of my travels, but more importantly, it has been one month since Max died.

It’s odd to note how callous life is to the loss of a person – it just moves on without a thought.  I think that’s a depressing fact about it, but also that there’s a beauty in time’s ceaseless march forward.  I think a festival on this “monthiversary” of loss is a prime example.  I guess when death is always around the corner, even for those of us who are healthy, we have to celebrate all we have.

When I watched that sheep die today without even making a sound as it was dragged to its execution block and splayed prostrate on the ground, I was briefly repulsed as I watched the life drain from its body.  But we all quickly recovered and went about our preparations.  I can’t help but think there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
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West Africa

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Reflections after a Month of Travel

Alexis Russell,West Africa

Description

The following is one of my journal entries from October 5th 2014, or Tabaski. Before I begin with the festivities, I feel the need to point out that it has been exactly one month since I started this journal, marking the start of my travels, but more importantly, it has been one month since Max […]

Posted On

10/7/14

Author

Alexis Russell

Category

West Africa

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    [post_content] => When I was quite young, maybe 7 or 8, we had this small mound in my front yard made from extra building material that we left out.  It was really a small hill – it couldn’t have been more than 4 feet high – but to all the neighborhood kids, it was an extreme ramp.  My dad once commented on how amusing it was to see small kids get so macho about something so puny, but at the time, jumping that hill was like a badge of honor.

Today, I was waiting outside the tailor’s for my Tabaski outfit, and there was a similar hill – again made out of leftover material, again no more than 4 feet tall.  Just as before, there was a small gathering of children taking turns with the singular bike among them to “race” down it.

I see now what my dad meant when he called it comical; between the gravel, the missing tires of the bike, and the small height of the hill, a kid wouldn’t make it 10 feet past the hill without having to pedal again.  Still, it was nice to see a childhood memory of mine played out so far away from home.
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West Africa

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Childhood Memories

Alexis Russell,West Africa

Description

When I was quite young, maybe 7 or 8, we had this small mound in my front yard made from extra building material that we left out.  It was really a small hill – it couldn’t have been more than 4 feet high – but to all the neighborhood kids, it was an extreme ramp.  […]

Posted On

10/7/14

Author

Alexis Russell

Category

West Africa

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    [post_content] => Things I will miss after Tabaski: Urban Shepherds.

 

 
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October 7th 2014

Megan Kamps,West Africa

Description

Things I will miss after Tabaski: Urban Shepherds.    

Posted On

10/7/14

Author

Megan Kamps

Category

West Africa

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